Sustainable marine tourism is receiving a major boost with the launch of the Green Fins Hub, a global digital platform for diving and snorkelling operators worldwide.
The industry-backed digital platform is expected to scale up reach from about 700 operators across 14 countries today to a potential 30,000 worldwide, thus increasing coral protection and conservation worldwide.
The Green Fins Hub is the first-ever global marine tourism industry platform, helping operators to make simple, cost-efficient changes to their daily practices by utilising tried and tested solutions, keep track of their annual improvements and communicate with their communities and customers. The tool has been developed by The Reef-World Foundation in partnership with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) to overcome the biggest sustainability challenges in the marine conservation tourism industry.
“Coral reefs, home to at least 25 per cent of marine life, are the mecca for marine-related tourism, contributing up to 40 per cent or more of the gross domestic product in some island nations. However, they are a most vulnerable ecosystem, especially to climate change with the difference between a global temperature rise of 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius being existential for reefs,” said Leticia Carvalho, Principal Co-ordinator, Marine and Freshwater at UNEP. “Increasing accessibility of best practice, knowledge and citizen science through this global digital hub can be a game changer in ensuring a future for coral reefs and other fragile marine ecosystems.”
The Green Fins Hub is the latest development by The Reef-World Foundation to meet a growing industry demand for environmentally-friendly underwater sports. The foundation recently surveyed over 2,400 dive tourists and professionals, of whom 83 per cent said they are looking for further sustainability education on their holiday, 75 per cent said they would pay more for it, but 85 per cent said that they find it difficult to see if an operator is sustainable.
The Green Fins Hub is intended to catalyse a seismic shift towards sustainability in the marine tourism sector, by hosting two types of Green Fins membership:
- Digital membership that will be available to dive, snorkel and liveaboard operations globally. Throughout every year of membership, operators will receive environmental scores based on a detailed online self-evaluation and progress made on their action plans.
- Green Fins Certified Members will continue to be assessed annually and trained in person at their operation. The assessment process will continue to be based on set criteria using a scoring system (0-330 point system, with a low score implying low impact of a business on coral reefs). As part of the Green Fins Hub, there will now be a minimum threshold (>200 of a maximum environmental impact score) for becoming a Green Fins Certified Member and a ranking of bronze, silver or gold certified members according to performance.
Additional features on the Hub include:
- The Green Fins Community Forum for operators around the world to raise industry needs, discuss environmental issues and share lessons and ideas with like-minded industry leaders, NGOs and governments. For example, dive centres experiencing outbreaks of invasive species like the Crown-of-Thorns Seastar (COTS) at their dive sites can use the forum to gain the resources and expertise to take immediate conservation action.
- The Green Fins Solutions Library gives access to over 100 proven environmental solutions to common daily operational challenges, tried and tested by the Green Fins network for over two decades.
- The Action Plan: Members will receive an annual sustainability action plan with set goals. An advanced user interface now allows them to track their progress over time.
The Green Fins Hub has been co-created with key industry partners from around the world, to ensure it meets the needs of our stakeholders. Diver training agency, PADI, and its network have pioneered and financially backed this project from its inception. In addition, industry leaders including training agencies PSS, RAID, diver insurance company DAN, dive holiday booking platforms such as ZuBlu and PADI Travel, and a series of Green Fins Members from around the world have helped shape the platform throughout development.
The development of the Green Fins Hub has been supported by numerous partners, another indication of the need for such a sustainability tool. Significant support was received from the Inter-American Development Bank through the Beyond Tourism Challenge, UNEP, the Matthew Good Foundation and Conservation X Labs.
Photographs by The Reef-World Foundation and Troy Mayne Oceanic Imagery